Even though poverty has hit a historic high rate in San Diego, the region is not perceived to have poverty areas. Latest census data shows significant concentration of poverty in certain neighborhoods.
There were 361,000 San Diegans living below the federal poverty level, with an additional 253,000 that were “near poor” with incomes 50 percent above the poverty line, during the period 2006-2010. People living in or near poverty tend to be concentrated in certain neighborhoods rather than being evenly distributed through the region. This concentration of poverty can lead to aggravation of environmental factors within the neighborhood, such as higher crime, lower public investments, struggling schools, etc. that impact the income mobility of residents to move out of poverty.
One drawback of using the federal poverty rate in classifying San Diego census tracts is that the federal rate does not account for the high cost of living in San Diego. Poverty status is determined by comparing annual income to a set of dollar values called poverty thresholds that vary by family size, number of children, and age of householder (e.g. poverty threshold for a family of four with two children was $22,113 in 2010). These poverty thresholds are updated annually to allow for changes in the cost of living over time, but they do not vary geographically. Therefore, the federal poverty threshold is likely to undercount poverty in San Diego, and thus dilute the measures of poverty concentration.